Q&A: Akram Khan - Dancer and Choreographer


Photograph: Alberto Cristofari/Contrasto/Eyevine

Born in Wimbledon, Akram Khan , 40, trained in classical Indian kathak dance. He went on to become an award-winning dancer and choreographer, and his collaborators have included Juliette BinocheHanif Kureishi, Anish Kapoor and Sylvie Guillem. He performs Torobaka at Sadler’s Wells in London from 30 June-5 July. Khan lives in London with his wife, dancer Yuko Inoue, and their two children.

When were you happiest? 
Last night, when I was asleep. A lot of my ideas come from dreams.

What is your greatest fear? 
Failure.

What is your earliest memory?
I was four, sticking my tongue out to taste snowflakes.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?
My mother: she gives without expecting back.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
To not act, through fear of hurting others.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
To know my trait, and use it against me.

Property aside, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought? 
A Yamaha Arctic motorbike.

What is your most treasured possession?
My time with my family.

What would your super power be?
To see through the eyes of others.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My legs.

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
Humility.

What is your favourite smell?
My wife’s skin.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? 
Like my Indian kathak dance masters.

What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
That I dance like my dance masters. You have to find your own voice.

Which book changed your life?
The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.

What is top of your bucket list?
To make a dance piece with my daughter, Sayuri.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Ice-cream, cakes, sweets.

What was the best kiss of your life?
Ones that I imagined.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I don’t know yet!

What is the worst job you’ve done?
Throughout my teenage years, I had to play the tabla for my tone-deaf aunties, who relentlessly sang Bengali songs until the sun rose.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Not getting into any athletic or sports teams in school.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
To the times of the Samurai.

How do you relax?
By going on tour. That way, I get to run away from my two screaming children. It’s the only time, I get any sleep.

What is the closest you’ve come to death?
When my father told me I should take over his Indian restaurant business.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A dance studio in my back yard.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That you shouldn’t ever take down a wall, until you know why the wall was put up in the first place.

Contemporary Dance Interviews